Supplement Feature - February 2021
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Just Keep Swimming

The 2021 Aquatic Trends Report

By Emily Tipping

We also asked respondents to describe the impact of COVID-19 on their facilities. There were a vast number of comments about lost revenues due to closures, and the methods (and associated challenges) of enforcing social distancing protocols once facilities were open again. Many respondents were also concerned about the impact on public safety following a season with so few learn-to-swim and water safety opportunities. Here are some additional comments from respondents:

"Due to COVID-19 we had intermittent closures of several facilities. The reduction in both expenditures and revenue will be felt for at least the next several years."

"At this point we have been closed since mid-March. We have no date for re-opening, but hope in spring of 2021. I think recertifying staff so we can re-open will be a huge challenge as well as getting our staff to return after having been gone for a calendar year."

"Operating with limited and modified programming limited the users of the community. Additionally, staffing was negatively impacted as hiring was difficult and current staff were not comfortable returning to work during COVID-19."

"Challenging summer, however we were able to open for 8 weeks out of our traditional 16-week season. Overall, very successful without a COVID case reported. Contact tracing and temp. check measures in place upon check-in. More staff hired (budgetary impacts) to ensure all safety precautions were followed."

"We lost five months of operation. Two of which were summer months. We remain at greatly reduced capacity. Safety issues continue to be top priority but cost recovery is a big issue moving forward."

"We have been closed for three consecutive seasons: Spring 2020, Summer 2020 and Fall 2020. Our health department has not prioritized our return to the pool for Winter 2021. We may not reopen until Spring or Summer of 2021. By then, with the high turnover of staff, it will be as if we are starting over, from scratch. We are the largest learn-to-swim program in our state with 12 pools that can be busy 5-6 days/week. Deaths due to drowning in Lake Michigan were at an all-time high this summer. For a large metropolis on the Lakefront, we are not surprised and recognize the role we play in water safety messaging."

"Since we provide various services to both indoor and outdoor facilities, both seasonal and year-round, the impact of the crisis had different impacts upon the facilities. Year-round indoor facilities have been hit hard due to closures and programming cancellations. The seasonal summer outdoor facilities, on the other hand, were able to adapt better due to the logistics of being outdoors and self-distancing is much easier. Yet membership at all facilities took a hit. The larger the facility the harder they were hit, especially economically. Smaller-scale facilities were able to adapt better, yet still certainly felt the impact. NYS and specifically NYC & Long Island imposed strict protocols for private and public aquatic and sports facilities. Though it hurts economically, health and safety were and still is key to providing a safe environment for members and staff. The impact still continues due to strict restrictions within New York State. It's a difficult balance between health and safety and downturns economically due to that. In the end there will be facilities that will permanently close, but NYS is trying to assist business weather this crisis. We'll see what the 6-12 months bring us all."

"Obviously, it was a difficult year, but I believe that the pandemic brought about a deeper appreciation for aquatics. Whether it be someone who needs exercise and lap swimming was the best option or parents who now have to be in the water with their children for lessons, it is a new aquatic world."

We also asked respondents about their post-COVID plans for their facilities, and generally speaking, everyone is looking forward to getting back to business as usual. Many respondents simply responded that they can't wait to simply open their facilities, but there was also a heavy emphasis on safety, as well as the need for staff training, ensuring facilities are in good working order, and boosting attendance again:

"After a rollercoaster of a year so far, the No. 1 goal is to take the lessons and solutions we learned from the summer and fall of 2020 and use that knowledge to improve both on health/safety and also using creative ways to rebound economically."

"Water safety should be the number one goal for every aquatic facility every year in my opinion. You can have a great business plan or want to introduce new programming, but without great water safety none of that really matters. We have worked really hard this past year to create a good lifeguard program for our own staff. Our number one goal this year will be to continue to build our water safety program so that everyone who swims at our facility will be able to have fun and exercise while feeling confident that they are safe and secure." RM